NEWPORT — On Prospect Street, just down the hill from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Newport, stands a mighty red oak tree. It’s nestled behind Vita Huset, a lovingly restored Swedish-inspired extended-stay rental apartment facility. At 79 feet high, it’s taller than the current state champion in Shaftsbury, Vermont.
It was the tree itself that inspired the owner, Ruth Sproull, to purchase and restore the property in 2014. Sproull is the owner and operator of Little Gnesta B & B, across the street from Vita Huset.
“I would look out my window, in all seasons, and joy the silhouette of the gnarled branches against the sky,” she said. “The tree towered above the house.”
Sproull was familiar with the Vermont Big Trees program administered by Danielle Fitzko.
According to Fitzko, the state has been keeping a list, by species, of the largest trees in the state since 1972. Their findings are published on their website. Tree-trunk circumferences are measured at 4.5 feet from the ground along with their height and spread to come up with a score.
Because of her concern to have the tree “protected and cared for,” Sproull had the dead limbs pruned and removed utility wires running through it. Then she called in county forester Jared Nunery to help her measure the tree. She wanted to know how the tree compared within the state’s database of very large trees.
Nunery was impressed with the tree.
He said that red oaks are rare in the Northeast Kingdom on account of the colder climate. Because of the tree’s height and siting, conditions for measuring it proved quite challenging. Given those limitations, he concluded that the tree, though not bigger than the state champion, could definitely compete.
“It’s the largest of its kind, on record, in the northern part of the state,” he said.Are you on Instagram? Cool. So are we. CLICK HERE to follow us for a behind the scenes look at Newport Dispatch.